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The Best Books, Shows, Films and Podcasts of 2017 for History Lovers

December 28, 2017 in History

By History Staff

Dunkirk, the epic war thriller written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan set in the Second World War around the Dunkirk evacuation. (Credit: Warner Bros/Lifestyle Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo)

As 2017 slips into the history books, take a look back at the year in culture—with the best new releases that drew from the past. Whatever medium your personal passion might be, these movies, books, TV shows and podcasts proved that what’s old can be new again.

Dunkirk, the epic war thriller written, co-produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan set in the Second World War around the Dunkirk evacuation. (Credit: Warner Bros/Lifestyle Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo)

Film

Directors took a hard look at the past with films that explored war and race through pivotal moments in history.

Director Christopher Nolan proved that there are still new ways to frame a war epic, with Dunkirk, a retelling of an Allied evacuation from France during World War II from three different perspectives. Director Dee Rees looked at the war from a distinctly American point-of-view with Mudbound, the story of two families, one black and one white, in the rural Mississippi Delta during the Jim Crow era following World War II. Director Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit examined the deadly 12th Street Riot of 1967 and provoked conversations about race relations and police brutality a half-century later. Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a reinterpretation of a 1970s Civil War period piece, won high marks (and a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival) for the director’s cinematic approach, but raised serious questions for its all-white cast. In a year when journalism became a political weapon, director Steven Spielberg partnered with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a dramatization of the story behind the Pentagon Papers in The Post.


George Saunders’ novel Lincoln in the Bardo, shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. (Credit: Dave Stevenson/Alamy Live News)

Fiction

The year’s best historically inflected fiction offered reflections on wars and family ties across generations.

In a year when the Syrian refugee crisis loomed large, Pulitzer Prize–winner Viet Nguyen gathered short stories of people linked by the experience of the Vietnam War and its legacy in the collection The Refugees (Grove Press). Against the backdrop of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln’s young son Willie entered the liminal realm of ghosts in Lincoln in the Bardo (Random House) in the latest from Man Booker Prize–winner George Saunders. In her second novel, Pachinko (Grand Central Publishing), Min Jin Lee traced the story of one Korean family through the 20th century, from Japanese-occupied Korea to 1980s …read more

Source: HISTORY

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It Ain’t Just Mueller Who Could Take Trump Down

December 28, 2017 in Blogs

By Walter Shapiro, Brennan Center for Justice

With his approval ratings at record lows, Trump may face a greater threat from the voters than from law enforcement.


As we stumble to the end of the chaotic first calendar year of the Trump administration, the president's critics have fallen into the habit of constantly monitoring American democracy’s vital signs. It's almost as if the nation's political institutions are hospitalized, with nurses bursting in at all hours to announce, “Just checking.”

By many reckonings, this has been a bad few weeks for the venerable patient, born 228 years ago in Philadelphia.

The Republican Senate, skipping all committee hearings, rushed through a tax-break bill filled with hand-written corrections without allowing Democrats time to read it. Michael Flynn — the president's first national security adviser who led chants of “Lock her up” at the Republican National Convention about Hillary Clinton — pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Trump himself retweeted three vicious anti-Muslim videos that originated with a British ultra-nationalist group.

Wait, there's more.

There was, of course, the mysterious Tweet written by Trump or his lawyer John Dowd or a squirrel on the White House lawn implying that the president had known that Flynn had lied to the FBI before Trump pressured former FBI Director James Comey to go easy on him. The resulting dustup prompted Dowd to insist with heavy-handed echoes of Watergate that a “president cannot obstruct justice.” Along the way, like a comedian searching for someone he hadn't offended yet, Trump declared war on the FBI claiming in a Tweet that “its reputation is in Tatters.”

Not surprisingly, the tromp, tromp, tromp of Trump's nonstop affronts to political decency have taken a toll on even moderate commentators. 

In the New York Times, political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein write, “The failure of Republican members of Congress to resist the anti-democratic behavior of President Trump — including holding not a single hearing on his and his team’s kleptocracy — is cringe-worthy.”

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate's Supreme Court columnist, offered this bleak assessment: “It’s become clear that absolutely nothing will persuade Trump supporters …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Donald Trump Is Forging an America as Greedy, Deceitful and Cruel as Its President

December 28, 2017 in Blogs

By Jacob Sugarman, AlterNet

With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, he has remade the country in his own repugnant image.


Eleven months into his presidency, Donald Trump remains something of an enigma for a large subsection of the political press. Is he a white nationalist, as his affiliation with Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon and his refusal to condemn the marchers in Charlottesville might suggest? Could he be a Western chauvinist, who believes Islam poses an existential threat to America's survival? Or is he just a plutocrat with a potty mouth and a golden toilet, a nominally more vulgar version of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)? What if he's all three at once?

The recent passage of so-called tax reform, which could kick as many as 13 million people off their health insurance and extinguish the last embers of America's middle class, raises yet another possibility: he's none of these things. While the president is indisputably a bigot, a misogynist and a predatory capitalist, one component of the GOP tax bill offers compelling evidence that his sole ideology is his own malignant narcissism, what David Roth at the Baffler calls the “blank sucking nullity of vanity and appetite.”

Trump has made no secret of his contempt for America's first black president, but the legacy he has worked hardest to dismantle might not be Barack Obama's but that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As Heather Cox Richardson argues in the Guardian, the Trump administration has launched an all-out assault on the New Deal, not just the welfare state it helped establish but the very idea that government can be used as a mechanism to improve people's material conditions. Ultimately, Trump's presidency represents the culmination of a right-wing movement that has been underway for nearly half a century.

Ronald Reagan, with his derision of the welfare queen and his mantra that 'government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem', rode that racist anti-government cowboy image into the White House,” Cox writes. “Trump is this conservative macho individualist exaggerated to caricature. He …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Women Got ‘Married’ Long Before Gay Marriage

December 28, 2017 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Two young women, 1896. (Credit: Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).

In 1880, on the first anniversary of her marriage, author Sarah Orne Jewett penned a romantic poem to her partner. “Do you remember, darling, a year ago today, when we gave ourselves to each other?” she wrote. “We will not take back the promises we made a year ago.”

Jewett wasn’t addressing her husband—she was writing to her future wife, Annie Adams Fields. Over a century before same-sex marriage became the law of the land, Jewett and Adams lived together in a “Boston marriage,” a committed partnership between women.

They weren’t the only ones: For several years near the turn of the 20th century, same-sex marriage was relatively common and even socially acceptable. These women shared kisses, hugs and their lives—but today, few remember these pioneers of same-sex relationships.

Though homosexuality was taboo during the 19th century, intense and romantic friendships among women were common. At the time, women were encouraged to exist in a sphere separate from that of men. Public life, work and earning money were seen as the purview of men.

Two young women, 1896. (Credit: Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).

This ideology isolated women from the outside world, but it also brought them into close contact with one another. As women were viewed as devoted, asexual and gentle, it was acceptable for them to do things like kiss, hold hands or link arms, and openly express their affection for one another. At newly founded women’s colleges, for example, students gave one another bouquets of flowers, love poems and trinkets and openly declared their love. Having a crush on another woman wasn’t blinked at—it was expected and considered part of women’s college culture.

A group of New England women took this concept one step further by “getting married.” Though they didn’t commit to one another legally, they combined households, lived together and supported one another for the long term. These independent women pushed the boundaries of what society deemed acceptable for women by attending college, finding careers and living outside their parents’ home. But since they did so with other women, their activities were deemed socially acceptable.

In 1885, novelist Henry James explored the phenomenon in his book The Bostonians. The novel, which pokes fun at independent women, features a relationship between Verena …read more

Source: HISTORY

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This Republican Congressional Candidate Is Enormously Popular Among Anti-Semites

December 28, 2017 in Blogs

By Michael Edison Hayden, Newsweek

Paul Nehlen has championed the work of white nationalists and his own account on Gab.



Anti-Semites Are Big Fans Of Republican Paul Nehlen

A Republican Congressional candidate running to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan is now championing the work of a white nationalist academic who portrays Jews as a scheming enemy of Western civilization. Paul Nehlen's endorsement of Kevin MacDonald's book, The Culture of Critique, on Tuesday appeared to double down on previous posts that embraced anti-Semitic and white… Read the rest of this entry →

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50 Facts That Remind Us New Year’s Eve Isn’t What It’s Cracked Up to Be

December 28, 2017 in Blogs

By Kali Holloway, AlterNet

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Try lowering your expectations and things could go really well.


New Year’s Eve: the night of unrealistic expectations and guaranteed disappointments. The parties are rarely as good as you envision, the surge pricing is out of control and every space humans can occupy is absolutely lousy with drunks. One study found that


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Source: ALTERNET

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Roy Moore Is Making an Audacious Attempt to Lie and Cheat His Way into the Senate

December 28, 2017 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

The Alabama Republican's latest lawsuit sets a new bar for arrogance and hypocrisy.


Republican Roy Moore’s U.S. Senate campaign is the latest exhibit A in lying and cheating one’s way into elected office. 

While it is highly unlikely Roy Moore’s campaign will succeed in preventing Democrat Doug Jones from being certified the winner of a recent special election, Moore's legal brief, presented in an Alabama court on Thursday, is filled with a catalog of fact-averse lies routinely laid out by Republicans.

According to Moore’s lawyers, the Democrats used every trick in the book to successfully outwit and outrun a Republican-run state that has spent most of this decade passing statewide laws to disenfranchise Democrats. This is despite the GOP's extreme gerrymandering that’s ended up in federal court, stricter voter ID requirements, voter purges that did not follow federal guidelines, requiring paper proof of citizenship to register to vote for state elections and other anti-voter actions.

But now Moore’s team has trotted out two new tricks that advocates of expanded voting rights should watch for in this electoral psychodrama and in 2018. First, the team that never mentions that Moore’s sexual indiscretions apparently turned off swaths of suburban women voters who traditionally vote Republican, claims it is mathematically impossible they didn’t vote in November 2017, simply because they had voted in the past.

This drawing of dots that don’t connect is nothing new in election fraud circles, but academics who follow voter turnout trends, like the University of Florida’s Michael McDonald, have posited that one reason the 2017 polls have been off in projecting Republican turnout is that they're making their estimates based on election results from 2014 and 2016. They don't take into account that Republicans, especially women, have spent the past two years watching Donald Trump and a Republican Congress govern. In other words, they’re saying the GOP base today is the same as it was three years ago, and if vote counts don’t reflect that, it’s time to redo the elections.

But what's even more outrageous than that is the utterly shameless claim (numbers #42 and #43 …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why We Read Dead Economists

December 28, 2017 in Economics

By Joakim Book

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By: Joakim Book

One of many accusations of the economics discipline is that it spends too much time on the ideas of rich white men, long since buried. In our world ruled by moral and intellectual relativism and group identities, such an accusation is serious indeed. We can ridicule such positions all we want, and Mises does an excellent job of it in chapter 3 of Human Action, but there may be still some merit to the accusation. Beyond relativism, how serious is the charge: are we reading too many dead economists?

For those of us with a large research and consumption interest in the history of economic thought (HET), that kind of indictment requires a response. Reading Duarte & Giraud's 2016 article in the Journal of the History of Economic Thought should be a wake-up call, both for those sneering at econ for idolising a bunch of dead guys and those of us who wants to read more of them: the fate of HET seems pretty doomed. Looking through publications in the 5 most prestigious economics journals over the last 25 years (as well as Economic Journal, Journal of Economic Perspectives and Journal of Economic Literature probably to have anything to work with at all), Duarte & Giraud finds something quite hopeless – HET is virtually eradicated from the discussions of professional economists:

Those who have argued that historians of economics should work hard to tighten the links between HET and its home discipline have possibly underestimated the extent to which economists have become impermeable to the history of thought, even if still using it for particular purposes in papers published in top journals. [...] the fact, plain and simple, is that analytical history of economics is pretty much absent from today’s major economics journals. (pp. 457-458)

So much for the charge of studying dead men of centuries past. So maybe the accusation is completely backwards; maybe we should be reading more dead economists from centuries past?

Some reasons for why we read these men whose ideas may be as dusty and forgotten as their gravestones have been given by well-known economists who themselves discarded its value (despite spending much time reading and writing on economists of the past): Schumpeter argued that it helps us understand current theory; Stigler said …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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What Will Cause The Next Recession?

December 28, 2017 in Economics

By Daniel Lacalle

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By: Daniel Lacalle

The most recent consensus estimates for global Gross Domestic Product growth show a healthy “synchronised” development in most economies. Expectations for the major economies are much stronger than what economists expected at the end of 2016 for the next three years. Seems all concerns about a global slowdown and subsequent recession have disappeared. What has changed?

China

The first major driver of this newfound optimism is China. The Chinese economy has not slowed down as aggressively as predicted nor has the Yuan devalued as much as feared. The counterpart is that deleveraging and structural reforms have vanished from the China debate. Chinese total debt has surpassed 300%. In the first ten months of the year, money supply has increased by 9.2%, significantly above estimates. From January to October 2017, China has added more debt than the UK, EU, US and Japan together, and that should be a cause of concern in the next months.

Bond yields are already rising in China and the stubborn decision of the government to “print” an official growth above 6% is also creating significant imbalances in the economy that will be more difficult to solve if ignored.

Political Catalysts

The second factor behind the current wave of optimism can be found in the excessive risk attached to political catalysts in the past two years. As economists, many of us were concerned about the different events in the political calendar, from Brexit to the Trump presidency, to the French and German elections. None of these events have generated a dramatic negative effect on the major economies.

The feared “rise of protectionism” did not happen, and trade growth rose above expectations, and economic recovery accelerated throughout the year. In effect, many were wrong attaching too much risk to political events, but this has led to an opposite effect. By the end of 2017 what we can read out of consensus estimates is that political risk has been all but ignored.

Inflation Expectations

The third relevant factor has been the gradual increase in inflation expectations. For many, it does not matter that it comes mostly from rising food and energy, two elements that are not positive economic growth drivers in most major economies. These analysts just see that inflation is picking up and that must be good. Well, it is not. Productivity growth is still very poor in OECD countries and core inflation rising is not driving real wages higher.

If we look …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Koch-Funded Anti-Climate Group Tells Women to Ignore Concerns About Toxic Chemicals

December 28, 2017 in Blogs

By Stacy Malkan, AlterNet

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A chemical industry front group defends the freedom of corporations to pollute.


At a recent soiree at Union Station, the D.C. power elite gathered in an anti-public health confab dressed up as a celebration of women that should concern anyone who cares about the health and rights of women and children.

The Independent Women’s Forum drew an impressive array of Republican politicians to its annual gala sponsored by, among others, the American Chemistry Council, the tobacco company Philip Morris, the cosmetics industry trade group, Google and the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council.

Speakers included House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who won the IWF Valor Award for being a “passionate advocate for limited government” who does not embrace “the idea that being a woman is a handicap.” Conway is also an IWF board member.

So what is the Independent Women’s Forum? IWF got its start 25 years ago as an effort to defend now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as he faced sexual harassment charges. The group has since raised millions from the secretive foundations of the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires to carry out its mission of “increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty.”

In the world of the IWF—a group Joan Walsh described in The Nation as “the ‘feminists’ doing the Koch’s dirty work”—that means defending the freedom of corporations to sell toxic products and pollute the environment, while trying to frame that agenda as good for women and children.

E-cigarettes should be approved because of the unique biological needs of women, for example, and climate science education is too scary for students. (The e-cig letter is “standard Philip Morris PR,” says tobacco industry expert …read more

Source: ALTERNET